|Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee|
January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||Richard Blumenthal|
|Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee|
January 3, 2015 – January 3, 2017
|Preceded by||Michael Bennet|
|Succeeded by||Chris Van Hollen|
|Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs|
February 12, 2014 – January 3, 2015
|Preceded by||Maria Cantwell|
|Succeeded by||John Barrasso|
|United States Senator
January 3, 2007
Serving with Steve Daines
|Preceded by||Conrad Burns|
|President of the Montana Senate|
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
|Preceded by||Bob Keenan|
|Succeeded by||Mike Cooney|
|Member of the Montana Senate
from the 15th district
January 3, 2005 – January 3, 2007
|Succeeded by||Jim Peterson|
|Member of the Montana Senate
from the 45th district
January 4, 1999 – January 3, 2005
|Succeeded by||Jim Shockley|
August 21, 1956 |
Havre, Montana, U.S.
|Education||University of Great Falls (BA)|
Tester was first elected to the Senate in 2006, defeating Republican incumbent Conrad Burns in one of the closest Senate races of that year. He won reelection in 2012 against U.S. Representative Denny Rehberg in another close race. Tester was previously the president of the Montana Senate and worked as a music teacher and farmer. He became the senior Senator in 2014 following Max Baucus' departure. He is currently the dean of the Montana congressional delegation.
Tester was born in Havre, Montana, one of three sons of Helen Marie (née Pearson) and David O. Tester. His father was of English descent and his mother of Swedish ancestry. Tester grew up in Chouteau County, near the town of Big Sandy, Montana, on land that his grandfather homesteaded in 1912. At the age of 9, he lost the middle three fingers of his left hand in a meat-grinder accident. In 1978, he graduated from the University of Great Falls with a B.S. in music.
Tester then worked for two years as a music teacher in the Big Sandy School District before returning to his family's farm and custom butcher shop. He and his wife continue to operate the farm; in the 1980s, they switched from conventional to organic farming, raising wheat, barley, lentils, peas, millet, buckwheat, and alfalfa. Tester spent five years as chairman of the Big Sandy School Board of Trustees and was also on the Big Sandy Soil Conservation Service (SCS) Committee and the Chouteau County Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) Committee.
Tester was first elected to the 45th district of the Montana Senate in 1998, after his neighbor, a Republican State Senator, decided not to run for re-election. Before running for State Senate, Tester was on the Big Sandy school board for a decade. He was elected the minority whip for the 2001 session. In 2002, he was re-elected with 71% of the vote, and he became minority leader in 2003. In 2004 he moved to the 15th district as a "holdover" because of redistricting. In 2005, Tester was elected president of the Montana Senate, the chief presiding officer of the Montana Legislature's upper chamber.
His election as President marked a transition for Montana Democrats as they moved into the majority leadership of the Senate for the first time in more than a decade. Term limits prohibited Tester from running for State Senate for a third consecutive term. Tester cited a prescription drug benefit program, reinstatement of the "Made in Montana" promotion program, a law to encourage renewable energy development, and his involvement with a bill that led to an historic increase in public school funding as accomplishments while in office.
Tester announced his candidacy in May 2005 for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican incumbent Senator Conrad Burns. Tester was the second Democrat to jump into the race, after state auditor John Morrison. While Tester was seen as having a greater following among his fellow legislators, his opponent, whose grandfather was governor of Nebraska, was able to raise significantly more money and had greater statewide name recognition.
Morrison had collected $1.05 million as of the start of 2006, including $409,241 in the last three months of 2005, but "Morrison's advantages in fundraising and name identification [did] not translate into a lead in the polls," most of which showed the race exceedingly tight, some calling it a "deadlock" as of late May.
In the June 2006, Tester won the Democratic nomination by more than 25 percentage points in a six-way primary, defeating State Auditor John Morrison. Morrison had heavily outspent Tester, who was originally an underdog in the race, but Tester "gained momentum in closing weeks of the campaign through an extensive grass-roots effort."
In the November 2006 election, Tester defeated Burns, receiving 198,302 votes (49%) to Burns's 195,455 (48%). The race was so close that Tester's victory was confirmed only the day after the election.
Tester's race was seen as a pivotal one for both parties seeking the Senate majority. Tester split with Democrats on several key issues, such as the Keystone XL oil pipeline, but has also voted with his party on issues such as health care reform and the Dodd–Frank financial services overhaul.
When announcing his candidacy, Rehberg called Tester a "yes man" for President Obama, saying that he sided with the administration in 97% of his votes. Rehberg cited Tester's support for the healthcare legislation and the 2009 stimulus, both of which Rehberg opposed. Tester said that he stood by his votes on both, saying that the healthcare legislation contains "a lot of good stuff" and that the only thing failed about the stimulus was "a vote against it". The Los Angeles Times noted that Tester diverged from his party on matters such as gun rights and illegal immigration.
A New York Times profile of Tester after his 2006 election described him as "truly your grandfather's Democrat—a pro-gun, anti-big-business prairie pragmatist whose life is defined by the treeless patch of hard Montana dirt that has been in the family since 1916."
During a Billings press conference, the Tester campaign released a statement from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., pledging to give Tester a coveted seat on the Appropriations Committee, regardless of whether Democrats wrested control of the Senate from Republicans, "as soon as possible". On January 13, 2009, Tester's second session of Congress, he was given a seat on the Appropriations Committee. Tester in 2013 became chairman of the Banking Committee's Securities, Insurance, and Investment Subcommittee.
In September 2013, he announced opposition to the appointment of Larry Summers as chairman of the Federal Reserve; lacking a committee majority Summers then withdrew his name from consideration. Tester voted to confirm Supreme Court nominees Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. He opposed the confirmation of Neil Gorsuch.
Jon Tester is often considered to be a moderate or centrist Democrat. Five ThirtyEight, which tracks votes in Congress, has found that Senator Tester votes with Trump's position 37.3% of the time. Tester's votes in the Senate generally have earned him high ratings from liberal groups, and low scores from conservative groups. In 2012, he was rated 90% by Americans for Democratic Action and 86% by the League of Conservation Voters. Conversely, he had scores of 11% from the National Taxpayers Union and 4% from the American Conservative Union. The National Journal rates his votes overall as 55% liberal and 45% conservative.
CrowdPac, which rates politicians based on donations they receive and give, gave Senator Tester a score of 5.3L with 10L being the most liberal and 10C being the most conservative.
Tester was one of only two Democratic senators to filibuster the American Jobs Act. It was reported that he wasn't concerned about the surtax on some families to pay for the plan, but was unsure that the new spending would actually create jobs.
In January 2018, Tester was the only Democratic Senator from a Republican-leaning state to oppose a stopgap funding measure to end a three-day government shutdown and reopen the federal government.
In 2018, Tester became one of the few Democrats in the Senate supporting a bill that would relax "key banking regulations". As part of at least 11 other Democrats, Tester argued that the bill would "right-size post-crisis rules imposed on small and regional lenders and help make it easier for them to provide credit". Chuck Schumer and Elizabeth Warren vehemently oppose the legislation.
Tester supported the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, voting for it in December 2009. Tester voted for the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act of 2010.
In April 2011, Tester was sharply criticized for introducing legislation to delay regulations that would cap the fees paid by retailers for debit card transactions at 12 cents while simultaneously accepting campaign contributions from the financial sector, which opposes such regulations. Tester later amended his legislation, reducing the delay from 24 months to 15 months.
Tester opposed the Supreme Court's Citizens United ruling, which prohibits the government from restricting independent expenditures for communications by nonprofit corporations, for-profit corporations, labor unions, and other associations. He proposed a constitutional amendment to reverse the decision.
Tester criticized Republicans in Congress for making policy that is designed "for those who write the biggest campaign checks". He has stated that Washington culture is controlled by K Street cronies.
In March 2012, the Montana GOP filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee requesting an investigation into the actions of Tester and Max Baucus. The complaint cited a Politico report suggesting that Baucus' K Street connections were "warning clients against giving campaign contributions to Tester's Republican challenger Rep. Denny Rehberg". Tester denied any wrongdoing.
In June 2010, Tester spoke for a few minutes in the conference room at the Thornton Law Firm in Boston to a handful of trial attorneys. The lawyers "listened politely for a few minutes, then returned to their offices. And Tester walked away with $26,400 in checks." Some of the partners received a payment from the firm labeled a bonus that was equal to exactly the contribution they gave to Tester’s campaign.
Tester tried to revive a bill that was meant to be a compromise between the conservationists and the timber industry. The bill would put 700,000 acres of wilderness aside for "light-on-the-land logging projects" with the intention of creating jobs in the flagging industry. It was noted that Tester was not "winning admirers on his side", with some liberal environmentalists saying that gives lumber mills control of the national forests.
Tester supports efforts to loosen restrictions on gun exports, stating it would help gun manufacturers, based in the US, expand their business and create more jobs.
In 2016, Tester voted against a Democrat-sponsored proposal that would have made background checks required for purchases at gun shows and of guns online nationwide. Tester voted against it claiming that it would "have blocked family members and neighbors from buying and selling guns to one another without a background check." Tester voted for a second Democrat-sponsored proposal to ban gun sales to individuals on the terrorist watch list. Both proposals did not pass.
During Tester's senior year in college, he married Sharla Bitz. Like Jon, Sharla Tester comes from an agricultural family and grew up in north-central Montana. The couple has two children: a daughter, Christine, born in 1980; and a son, Shon, born in 1985.
A January 2012 piece on Tester focused on the fact that he butchers and brings his own meat with him to Washington. He said "Taking meat with us is just something that we do.... We like our own meat."
|Party political offices|
|Democratic nominee for U.S. Senator from Montana
|Chair of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Chris Van Hollen
|U.S. Senator (Class 1) from Montana
Served alongside: Max Baucus, John Walsh, Steve Daines
|Chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
|Ranking Member of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee
|Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee
|Current U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)|
|United States Senators by seniority
|110th||Senate: M. Baucus • J. Tester||House: D. Rehberg|
|111th||Senate: M. Baucus • J. Tester||House: D. Rehberg|
|112th||Senate: M. Baucus • J. Tester||House: D. Rehberg|
|113th||Senate: M. Baucus (until Feb. 2014) • J. Tester • J. Walsh (from Feb. 2017)||House: S. Daines|
|114th||Senate: J. Tester • S. Daines||House: R. Zinke|
|115th||Senate: J. Tester • S. Daines||House: R. Zinke (until Mar. 2017) • G. Gianforte|
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